[3 May 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Toronto, Canada’s the Trews have tasted a fair amount of success in their home country. Their first single, 2003’s “Not Ready to Go”, got a fair bit of airplay on Canadian rock radio (at least here in Ottawa), and I’m pretty sure I saw the song used in a pre-game montage sequence on Hockey Night in Canada, which is consistently the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s most watched show on TV. Hope & Ruin marks the Trews’ fourth kick at the can in terms of studio full-lengths, and this time, Gord Sinclair, the bassist from the Tragically Hip (Canada’s most popular rock band until Nickelback came along), mans the production, along with Trews guitarist John-Angus MacDonald. Sinclair’s presence gives Hope & Ruin a shot of the same bluesy roots rock that his band is known for, so it’s no surprise that some of the record comes off as Tragically Hip-lite with a dash of country and folk tossed into the mix.
In general, the 12 songs on Hope & Ruin are big and anthemic, and the slower stuff is the sort of thing that Bic lighters will be flicked to across the land in concert. There are some incredible moments on the disc, notably “People of the Deer”, which has a swampy Bayou-esque flavor to it. A lyric in the acoustic ballad “One by One” is another standout—“Driving four days in Northern Ontario / Can’t find a station on the radio”, an average complaint of many Canadians (like me) who sometimes have to deal with the isolating expanse of this great nation. However, there are a few duds scattered into the mix, such as “Burned”, which rubs too close to the less appealing aspects of grease-fried Southern rock with its wah-wah guitars. There are also cloying lyrics like “If you don’t break my heart real soon / I’ll find someone who will” and misguided songs like “You Gotta Let Me In”, which sounds like the bastard cross of folkie Gordon Lightfoot and soft-rocker Jack Johnson. Still, Hope & Ruin is a decent specimen as Canadian mainstream rock records go. Even if the Trews are the preferred choice of jocks and meatheads, I’d rather listen to this group than the steaming pile of crap that is Nickelback any day of the week.